The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons

The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons

The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons

The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons

Synopsis

Barber examines Henry II's turbulent relationship with his sons and the dramatic consequences of the resulting intrigues, feuds and factions. All the important events of his reign, including the Crusades and expeditions to Ireland, are covered in depth.

Excerpt

Twenty miles south of the river Loire and its châteaux, in the wooded hills of Touraine, stands the abbey of Fontévrault. Here, beneath the echoing grey stone domes of the abbey church, lie the effigies that mark the graves of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard I, alone between bare walls. How did these three great figures from England's history come to be buried in a remote French abbey?

The story of Henry and his sons, the 'Angevin' kings of England, begins in the confused politics of France in the tenth century. France was ruled by a number of local lords, and the king in Paris had only the most shadowy control over what his barons did on their own lands. Two of the most energetic of these noble families were the dukes of Normandy and the counts of Anjou. The Norman dukes had been Viking seafarers only a century earlier, and had won their lands by conquest, exchanging their swords for ploughs and their longboats for farms, after their leader Rollo had been bought off by King Charles the Simple in 911 with the grant of rich lands along the Channel coast. Rollo or Hrolf, called the Walker by his Viking comrades because he was so huge that no horse could carry him, founded the dynasty of the Norman dukes.

The Normans transformed the face of Europe in the next century, spreading as far as Italy, Sicily and Jerusalem itself; nearer to home, they brought England back into the sphere of Continental politics just when it seemed that it might become part of the Scandinavian world, remote from the mainstream of European events.

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